DUO WITH PAAL NILSSEN-LOVE IN EUROPE
Two days off in Krakow can be dangerous for your health, there’s too much fun to find, but Paal and I made it to the stage in one piece on January 28th to start a week of shows together. I love this duo, every time we get together it’s almost like a new band. Paal brings in ideas he’s been working on elsewhere and I do the same. This gets added to the mix of what’s come before, and we start up again from there. With the Frame Quartet I travelled with just the tenor and Bb clarinet in order to cut down on overweight expenses (Nate only travelled with his electric bass and borrowed uprights along the way for the same reason), and I missed not having the other horns while playing with Paal. The challenge of having to focus on expressing my ideas on just two instruments over the weeks in Europe was definitely worthwhile, however.
After Krakow we flew to Madrid, with a transfer in Munich. Because of fog we were delayed and basically landed in Munich when we were supposed to be boarding our second plane. I figured that we’d be stuck for hours waiting at the airport for another flight to Madrid, but Paal said, “We’re in Germany, I think we might make it.” We got off the plane on the Tarmac and there was a van waiting for us and the few other people trying to make the same connection. The driver hit the gas and shot us over to a small office where a lone customs official looked at our passports, nodded, and sent us back into the van. We were quickly dropped off at the terminal for the Madrid flight, and actually got on the plane. I told Paal, “Well, that was a miracle, but there is no way our luggage will make it (visions of another airline t-shirt filled my head).” Our bags arrived perfectly- German efficiency at its finest. Would be nice to send some of it to friggin’ Heathrow.
You shouldn’t complain about days off while on tour when you’re in a city like Madrid, but when I’m out playing I’d rather work. That said, the opportunity to look at the Velasquez and “black paintings” by Goya at the Prado was a real pleasure. But greater that that was visiting the Reina Sophia for an amazing exhibition of both Albers’ work, pieces that were directly influenced by their time in Mexico. And then there were all the Picassos, Miros, and Tapies paintings. My head was spinning when I left the building. Paal and I performed at the Festival Hurta Cordel on the 31st, a ripping gig to a good crowd. Waiting that long to play had us pretty coiled and ready to spring.
We flew to Barcelona the next day and played an amazing gig there that night, the best concert audience I’ve ever played to in that city. One of those perfect gigs, music playing itself, everyone just listening as it went by; the kind of thing that makes the traveling and exhaustion and frustrations seem like nothing, a weight thrown off into a river of sound. I thought that this would be the highlight of the tour, but on the 2nd we travelled to Amsterdam to play on a double bill with Andy and Terrie from the Ex. This turned out to be a tremendous night too, and also the best crowd I’ve played for in that city. Andy and Terrie performed first, Paal and I second, then a short set together as a quartet. The music was so strong we talked straight away about the possibility of trying it again. Right now we’re considering attempting a double duo tour in the start of 2007; it takes so long to get these projects in motion because everyone is (thankfully) so busy with projects.
The tour ended in Utrecht on the next night. The first set was almost ideal, balanced and effortless. The second set was kind of a struggle, things difficult to assemble, ideas misunderstood, awkward constructions. Paal and I looked at each other afterwards, in the backstage room, “Well, we tried.” Already I look forward to the next time, so I can erase the blackboard and start all over again- time for some new mistakes.
-Ken Vandermark, Montreal, 2/11/07.
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